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It’s hard not to fall in love with Cartagena, especially when views like this greet you every time you walk outside.

The view from our apartment building's balcony.

Even before we left, the city had taken on a charm that others in South America hadn’t yet. When I was getting together our South American flights prior to our departure from New York, the woman at American Airlines asked in a generous Southern accent, “Cartagena!? Why would you want to go there? Have you been watching Romancing the Stone?” We hadn’t but we quickly got it up on Netflix just for kicks.

And once we arrived in Cartagena, I started to research how much it would cost to fly direct from New York because I wanted to tell our friends they had to visit. It’s one of those cities where you just want to sit at the cute cafes all day, drinking frosty drinks and people watching. We stayed in a studio apartment inside the old, walled city that we found through It was perfect – and by perfect I mean the right location, big enough with a kitchenette, and a killer air-conditioning unit.

The wall that surrounds the old city looking out to the Caribbean Sea.

It’s also right on the coast of the Caribbean, which gives the town its seaside resort feel. A wall designed to protect this port town surrounds the old city adding to its appeal. Inside the walled city are narrow, winding roads and old colonial buildings with balconies and plants spilling out the windows and doors. On many of the doors, there were beautiful, decorative door knockers.

For a slideshow of the Cartagena door knockers, please visit

We went to a few museums in Cartagena, one church and old fort. But my favorite place in the city was the rooftop bar at the Small Luxury Hotel where we could get drinks and watch the sunset over the ocean.

Our favorite spot in Cartagena

Then there was the mud volcano. The legend of Volcan de Lodo El Totumo says that this particular volcano used to spew hot ash and lava but then a priest sprinkled holy water into its mouth and it turned into mud – a soft, cool, and allegedly healing mud as a matter of fact. The whole operation feels like a few locals got together and said, “Hey, we have this hill with a hole. Why don’t we fill it with the mud and charge tourists to bathe in it.” But all cynicism aside, who doesn’t want to commemorate their trip with a picture of themselves covered mud?

~ Molly


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